This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Of vegetable Oils, that supplied by the Olive is a capital substitute when butter disagrees; it is slightly laxative, and being mixed in a salad it obviates flatulency. Castor Oil is a favourite adjunct to the Egyptian salads; this was relished taken with other foods in the times of the Pharaohs. The oleic acid of Olive Oil is a powerful solvent of the faeces if injected into the lower bowel. Dr. E. Moraweck, of Austria, when asked by an English physician, on behalf of a patient suffering from gallstones, what remedy he chiefly used for this trouble, advised Olive Oil before all other medicaments. Accordingly a full dose thereof was administered, and two days later a handful of gall-stones was passed. Genuine Olive Oil is expressed from the pulp of the common Olive, being, when fresh and good, an inodorous, insipid, pale yellow, or greenish-yellow, viscous liquid, unctuous to the feel, inflammable, not capable of combining with water, and nearly insoluble in alcohol; it is the lightest of all the fixed oils. Virgin oil runs spontaneously from the Olive pulp, and is superior to the expressed oil, which is more or less turbid, and coloured, having to be stored lor a time so as to deposit its impurities, and become clear.
Nowadays most of the so-called Olive Oil is really Cotton-seed Oil purified. For Olive Oil a proper mild temperature is essential to keep it good. If frozen in the flask during winter, it must not on any consideration be placed near the fire, or in a heated room, because a forced temperature will turn any such oil rank; it should be put for thawing into warm, not hot, water, after first drawing the cork. In cases of ulcerated stomach, or contraction of its further outlet (the pylorus), a wineglassful of Olive Oil taken before meals will prevent the severe pain which otherwise follows on eating; and with most patients the accompanying dilatation of the stomach disappears completely. From eight to nine ounces should be thus taken in all every day. In two instances this plan of treatment, when tried as an absolutely last resource before operation, yet proved successful; and the patients, who had become reduced to a shadow, began forthwith to regain flesh, insomuch that within two months they were almost cured. Among young men training for athletic contests, rowing, etc., the unusual stimulation of the sweat ducts by increased active exercise sometimes induces boils, when the best preventive is to anoint the skin with a little sweet (Olive) Oil after the morning bath.
This is, moreover, a capital resolvent. Both Olive Oil, and Cocoa butter, are as capable for affording nourishment as are the fats of meat, and milk. Cocoa butter contains less water than true butter, and will keep for fifteen or twenty days without showing any acid reaction: therefore it is specially useful for making pastry. The same has been found experimentally an admirable antiseptic against infection by microbes, insomuch that the several Boards of Health sanction its use. Formerly an old custom obtained to dip cutting surgical instruments into oil before incising the flesh.
If occasion arises when a dose of Castor Oil seems to be incontestably needed, and more appropriate than aught else for the purpose in view, an ancient method of giving this under the guise of palatable food is well worth knowing. Mix a slice or two of well-browned toast, or pie-crust, with some strong meat-extract, or gravy; add pepper, salt, and herbs, and heat the whole so as to produce an aromatic, and flavoursome dish; then mingle your dose of Castor Oil therewith (choosing the tasteless sort), and administer the combination at a hungry moment, without revealing its medicinal character, but merely describing it as a meat dish which the doctor has ordered. By the adoption of this plan a patient may, without knowing it, be induced to take Castor Oil with avidity, and to declare between the mouthfuls that such Oil (which has been perhaps previously suggested, and refused with aversion) is one of those disgusting things which he never could, and never will take! Carlyle called Castor Oil "the Oil of Sorrow".
With regard to the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament, - pouring Oil and wine into the wounds of the traveller by the wayside, - it has been pointed out that the words of the text signify "he bound up his wounds, pouring on, not in, 'Oil, and wine.' " In other words, as the Good Samaritan applied the bandage he kept pouring Oil upon it, to make it remain soft, and prevent it from stiffening, while adding wine to stimulate, and cleanse the parts. Such (as we know from Galen) were the recognized therapeutics of the past; whilst more than a century later on a paste combining these two liquids was a popular pharmaceutical preparation. Friction of old bruises, and painful chronic swellings, with Olive Oil, in conjunction with some warming spirit, is a long-established domestic remedy. In the peasant speech of Devon, where swollen neck-glands are called "waxing curls," one may hear it said: "Aw, poar little blid; 'er idden very well; 'er waxing curls be down, an' I've a bin rubbin' um back wi Arts'orn an' Oil".
Olive Oil is the best medium for frying, at about 350° Fahrt, suddenly plunging the substance into the pan of boiling oil, and leaving it there for three, or four minutes. This process differs entirely from the usual so-called frying, in which the fat is regarded merely as a means of preventing the substance from adhering to the surface of the shallow pan. True frying produces an instantaneous coagulation of the albuminous proteids on the surface, so that any escape from within of soluble substances is thus hindered, whilst the outside temperature is so high (as with fish, for example) that the food is practically cooked throughout its whole thickness almost immediately. At high temperatures some inferior fats develop fatty acids, which are trying to a feeble digestion.